Three Fives, a 10 and a Half

Hi friends. Again, it’s been awhile. A busy summer of flying, a promotion, and then a job change and of course running have kept my hands full. Let’s see if we can catch up a little.

My last post updated the winter and spring races. As planned Coach Rick and I focussed on some shorter races for summer eventually keying in on a fast 5k followed by a half-marathon as an A race in the fall. 

This summer was definitely a learning experience. Armed with Rick’s workouts and some generous workout pacing by our Grand River Endurance leader, Josh Bolton, I got to work making my legs faster. I’ll be honest… My first few track workouts were horrendous. I could barely keep up with Josh (who is like a metronome by the way) at my target pace. He told me I’d get mentally tougher as my body got accustomed to the speed. I knew I had work to do. 

In late May I ran the Dairy Capital 5k in Woodstock. It was cold, pouring rain and hilly. Not ideal. It was my second ever 5k race. I pulled off a third place finish but the time was nothing to call home about. I didn’t even have anyone to chase! The two guys ahead of me were miles away. University runners I tell ya. They’re something else.  

Top 3 finishers of the Dairy Capital 5k


So, the next weekend I told Rick I needed another shot at it. Luckily, my teammates were running the Bread & Honey 15 and 5k in Mississauga. Perfect. A team outting. Surely something nice would happen. Josh and Tanis ran the 15k while Heather and I took on the 5k. Honestly, this race was more fun to see Heather succeed than me. She needed a breakthrough race. I told her from the start to “stay on my ass” and to not let me go. I gave it a good go and finished with a 30 second personal best with 18:17. Sweet! Sweeter still, Heather finished only a few seconds behind me! So much hype. I gave her the biggest hug after I was sure she wasn’t going to puke. This lady is amazing. A fast runner, a wife, mother of two, and in school. That’s GRE material.  

GRE at Bread & Honeyy: Josh, Tanis, Heather and myself

 About a month after Bread & Honey I ran the Peach Bud 10k. That was a good race and I felt consistent.Coach said I set a PB for the 10k on a non-Yonge Street course. I felt good but also tired.
I didn’t really feel like racing much anymore so I took the rest of the summer away from it. This gave me time to focus on my form, leg speed and overall fitness. During this time I also had a promotion at work! Busy times. I really stand by my gut feelings with running. If I don’t feel like racing, I don’t. If I don’t want to go fast, I rest. If I want a piece of chocolate cake…cake it is. It’s simple.Otherwise I just get burnt out

Sometimes I think people feel like they’re obligated to run races and so many miles. Some kind of social media pressure… That’s another blog post though.
Fast forward to September. I had been in contact with Megan Brown from the Yorkville 5k. Apparently I qualified for their race at Bread & Honey. Yorkville was also the Canadian 5k Road Championships. Run with Canada’s fastest? … I’m going to get absolutely smoked… But heck, it’s fast and flat. Let’s roll. I had been feeling great leading up to Yorkville. Running beside Josh now in the workouts he paced for me instead of behind him. Progress. After a rather deadly quick set of 800s the week before Yorkville I think we both knew I was ready to do some damage to my PB.

Track workouts are tough! Thanks Head Coach Rick and Offensive Coach Bolton!

Yorkville ended up being a great race. I barely looked at my watch taking Josh’s advice to just “feel it out”. It turned out to be great advice. I really hammered and actually raced for the first time, trying to go harder and pick off other runners as the race progressed. I swear I’ve never kicked as hard as I did at the end of Yorkville. I crossed the line with a 50 second personal best of 17:27 and still finished 13/14 in my age group. There’s a lot of fast runners out there folks! For my age, I’m a bit of a slow poke. 

Yorkville 5k – Canadian 5k Road Champs

 Also, Yorkville was a great race! I’ll be back there for sure!

Finally, we come to the crescendo of the season. The race where I layed it all on the road for Boston last year, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. This time I decided to take on the half. With my new legs primed from a hard summer I was feeling good. A few weeks earlier I accepted a new job so I hadn’t been running quite as much but Coach felt I had maintained my fitness from Yorkville. STWM was great as usual. Lots of people running and spectating and GRE had a good squad out to battle with. John, Josh, Tanis and I all ran the half. The day was cold but I teamed up with a couple of good guys which always helps. Around 16k my right hamstring got a little tight so I had to pull back. Despite that I still ran a super consistent race and pulled off a 1:20:13. That’s a 4:33 improvement since the Chilly Half in March. I also split the half way mark at 37:33 which is only three seconds off my PB from Yonge Street which is a downhill course. The goal from the spring was to run 1:20 and I really can’t be disappointed with the results. This race was also just over 10 minutes faster than my first ever half-marathon in Hamilton three years ago. 



Coach Rick was really pleased with my race. He compiled a list of races I’ve run under his coaching over the last two and a half years. In that time I’ve run 29 races. 22 of those have been personal best performances. Here are the improvements in the numbers from initial time to present:

5k: 18:47 – 17:27

8k: 34:11 – 30:47

10k: 41:06 – 37:31 (37:50 on a non TYS10k course)

10 mile: 1:03:11

1/2 Mar: 1:29:02 – 1:20:12

30K: 2:22:12 – 2:03:25

Mar: 3:36:02 – 3:03:12


Left: Hamilton Half-Marathon 2012 – 1:30:30 Right: STWM 2015- 1:20:13

It’s great to have someone to look out for you and handle your numbers. It takes some stress off of the training so I can focus on my fitness. Rick not only gives me my workouts but also offers his opinions in my next race, goals and injuries. 

Additionally, I need to give a special shout out to Josh Bolton. Not only is he a great friend but also a talented athlete and was basically the offensive coach for racing this season. Without his advice and being with me stride for stride for most key workouts, I wouldn’t be where I am. Thank-you, Bolts. 

Learning from the best

One final note. Because of increased field size, my Boston qualifying time wasn’t quite fast enough to meet the new Boston standard… So, unfortunately there will be no Boston Marathon for me this spring. Instead, I’ll likely build to run another marathon after I have a good rest. I can guarantee that if all goes well over the winter the next marathon will be in a league of its own compared to the last one. Stay tuned.



Spring Catch Up

I’ve been pretty lazy lately; Only from a blogging standpoint though. It’s been a while since my last post and lots has happened. I finished the spring race season with a 30k and a 10k, took a good chunk of rest time and have been working at persuing some new goals in my career. All told in good time here! Stay with me….

My last race was the Chilly Half. A solid performance in cold weather. I was happy. I felt quick. The plan coach Rick had put me on was working and other than a couple of days missed for sickness, I was on track for the A race, Around The Bay 30k. Race day came and it was pretty similar to the year before. Cold at first, most people over dressed and the heat came out to play later. I stuck with my gut and rocked the shorts with a long sleeve and the Grand River Endurance singlet. The race itself was actually pretty uneventful. I ran a consistent, well executed race and for the first time, a big race by myself. I had no one really to stay on pace with except for a few runners in the last 2-3km which was a nice push when the going was tough. The last 4k were a doozie with big headwinds. We took turns drafting.

 I finished the race, cheered on by friends and GRE team mates with a time of 2:03:29, a personal best of 8:41 over last year’s race and almost 20 minutes faster than two years ago. Happy was an understatement. Next time, that sub 2 hour mark will be a good goal to shoot for. With Boston next year though, Around a The Bay may have to wait. Thanks to my friends at Tribe Fitness for the pics!


Coach Rick and I had planned for me to run the Toronto Yonge Street 10K only three weeks later. Usually after a big race I take at least a month off but recovery from ATB went well so I had the green light to race TYS10K. Coach Suggested a target around 37:20-37:30. I went out comfortable. A decent day but, again, windy. especially between the taller buildings in downtown Toronto. We didn’t have the wind at our backs until about 8k. At the 5k mark I noticed my split. 19:15… “hmph”, I thought. “I’m too comfortable to be halfway into this race.” So I turned it up. Way up. I was moving at a good clip for the second half of the race. My splits for each kilometre of the race were 3:46, 3:33, 3:53, 3:34, 3:54 (turn up the pace, Mike!) 3:38, 3:30, 3:31,3:37,3:29. I finished with a 37:31 another personal best. Good call, Coach!

I was really happy with that last 5k. My watch measured the course a little too long. About 300 meters. According to the course splits, I ran a 1 minute negative split (that means the second split was faster). Now, according to my watch, if we ignore that extra 300 meters, I ran a 17:45 in the last 5K which would be a personal best. It was nice to see everyone at both races. The running community is strong and it’s always fun to watch other people smash their goals. Team GRE had a great showing too. Both Josh and Heather placed in their age groups. Tanis who was recovering from an injury was great support at The Bay and Yonge Street.


Next for me is a local 5k in Woodstock this coming weekend. We’ll see if I can duplicate the end of Yonge Street’s performance again. My race schedule has been updated although some dates and races are not 100% yet. I decided after a few weeks of down time to work on shorter distances and speed this summer instead of a marathon build. I’ve done a summer build for the last two years and need to switch things up. What is for sure is that I will be running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon. The idea is to work on the turn over so that come this winter, I’ll be a bit more speedy and ready for a build towards the Boston Marathon next spring. I suck at track work, at least that’s how I feel, so it’s time to even the playing field for endurance and speed. Hopefully this will make me a more well rounded runner. Until next time friends, I’ll leave you with the new Grand River Endurance motto: Think Fast Be Fast. 

Chilly Half-Marathon Race Recap

Sometimes life throws you a curveball now and then. Sometimes that curveball can work in your favour and you knock it out of the park. That’s what I felt like happened this past weekend at the Chilly Half.

I guess this story starts out in the early morning hours of the Saturday before race day. A normal night at work for us turned into some tense moments while handling an in-flight emergency. I’m glad to say that it had a happy ending but it makes you appreciate things a bit more when these unexpected things happen. Needless to say, I had a little bit of extra adrenaline pumping and a bit of a “high on life” sort of feeling on Sunday morning.

I was running my third consecutive Chilly Half-Marathon in downtown Burlington. Coach Rick and I had planned to aim for a 1:23 high to a 1:25 finish time based on conditions. The weather was great compared to what we’ve been having lately. Around -5C with light flurries and next to no wind with fairly dry roads. Pretty great if you ask me. If you’ve been reading, I love racing half-marathons. They’re my favorite distance and I have a pretty good strategy laid out to them now. It had been awhile since I’d had the opportunity to run a flat course with favourable conditions.

I warmed up with Krista, Ben and fellow GRE runner Alec. All was good. I saw a whole bunch of friends who are nice to see in real life once in awhile instead of on my Twitter feed. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood. Probably because of the weather? I was especially happy to be there. I was still thinking that a day earlier, things could have turned out much worse.

Krista, Alec and I before warm up

Ben and I decided to stick together for the race. We had plans this past summer to race together but never got the chance so it was nice to finally get down to some running business. We started out comfortable. A little off the pace which was planned to be between 3:58-4:02/k. No worries though. It was early and we were having fun and a good chat. I kept a mental note to try to keep pushing a bit more as the race progressed. This was business after all 😉. 

Ben and I. Also Sarah who I know from Instagram but didn’t know this was her until later!

First 5k splits: 4:06, 4:05, 4:06, 4:00, 3:57.

As we passed downtown Burlington again heading east, I saw the BlackToe Running gang and a few others cheering. It’s always nice to see them. I haven’t been into the store in a few months and miss that place. It’s a real nice spot they have there in Toronto. I also saw some familiar runners ahead. Leah of Black Lungs, Nate of Pace & Mind and Laura of Longboat. Ben and I eventually caught up to them. Nate took off like a shot. That guy really impresses me. The minute I think I’ve caught up to him, BOOM he hits the gas. Laura, Ben and I stuck it out. 

6-15k splits: 3:51, 4:02, 3:54, 4:03, 4:04, 3:59, 3:54, 3:59, 4:06, 4:11 <— “Ew what is that? 4:11?! Get your head in the game kid” – actual race thoughts by Mike Thornton

Somewhere before the turn around, Laura and I lost Ben. She and I kept pace for a good chunk of the race. I’d been wanting to race with Laura for a while. I think she’s one of my favourite runners on the Twitter machine. She’s friggin’ quick too! Around 16km I started feeling good. I had energy to burn. I started feeling a little charged emotionally from Saturday’s events and just turned it into pure energy. I left Laura and started picking off runners. I think I passed maybe 10 in the last 5km. I started hammering. I was really moving. It felt great!

Splits 16-21k: 3:58, 4:05, 3:52, 3:50, 3:48, 3:42

I crossed the line with a chip time of 1:24:46.8 a personal best by 1:45 and 68th overall! Can’t say I’m not happy with that! I’m wondering if maybe I could’ve taken it out at a faster average pace and maybe gone sub 1:24. I’m happy with the way I chose to race. A little on the conservative side since we’re now less than a month from Around The Bay and that’s what I’m building for.

Laura and I post race. GRE and Longboat working together

If anything, this weekend reinforced my love for both of my passions in flying and running. What happened at work doesn’t make me afraid. It’s a learning experience and its part of the job. Plus it kind of helped me dig deep when I needed it for race day. I really enjoyed this race. Maybe I need an emergency before every race to get me hyped up? Ha.. Nah I’ll pass.

Around The Bay is soon less one big hill this year. That kinda sucks. We’ll give the race a good go still though. Until next time, friends, keep the shiny side up!

Product Review: Polar M400

And now for something completely different!

I recently was granted the opportunity to test and review the Polar M400 GPS watch after visiting the Polar booth at a race expo. I’ve been wearing and running with the M400 for a couple of months both inside and outside for training runs and races. The watch is sleek looking matte black with lots of cool little functions and is really quite customizable. You can connect with Polar’s online “Flow” community to upload your workouts even from your phone! Let’s have a closer look…

Please excuse the crappy quality of my pictures.


What caught my eye first about the M400 was it’s style. Until then I had been wearing the Garmin Forerunner10. The Forerunner10 is a very basic GPS watch but after two years it was my trusty sidekick. It had yet to let me down except for having to replace the band. The M400, however, felt great as soon as I put it on. It seemed to be more flush with my wrist and didn’t feel boxy or too big. Some watches that I’ve tried in the past make me feel like I’m Ironman or something (Does this have a jetpack?). So, style points go to the M400. Cool! What else does this do?

Connecting to Flow

Connecting to Flow

I connected the M400 to my computer via the port in the back of the watch and got set up with Polar’s online system called Flow. Here you can share your workouts with other Polar users as well as track your own progress and customize the watch for how you want to use it. More on that coming. Flow is pretty well laid out. There are videos to show you how to use the watch and the system. It takes a little bit of getting used to but it’s not too complicated. Flow includes a summary page for each workout as well as a total summary of all distance and time done with the watch. There’s a diary that you can access in both the watch and online that shows you the day, week or month at-a-glance. You can also download the Polar Flow app for free and sync your workouts to your mobile device via bluetooth. I thought that was pretty cool.

Here’s a picture of the diary. You’ll notice a blue bar with a percentage at the bottom of each day. Based on your training settings the M400 measures your daily activity by your movement. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s how it works. I do a decent amount of treadmill running which means I can wear the M400 inside and still track my daily activity without having a GPS satellite. Now, keep in mind it wont measure distance or speed without a signal but you can start a timer and still have the daily activity % as well as a time for the end of your workout. It’s better than nothing.

The month at-a-glance with weekly totals and daily activity percentages

The month at-a-glance with weekly totals and daily activity percentages

Daily activity percentage as shown on the watch. Usually I go way over 100% when doing speed work or a long run.

Daily activity percentage as shown on the watch. Usually I go way over 100% when doing speed work or a long run.

Customize To Fit You
On Flow you can explore what Polar calls “Sport Profiles”. These are basically sports that you can pick such as running, cycling, hiking, Crossfit, even dancing! Once you pick a sport, you can go into that profile and pick and choose what you want to do. You can edit basic settings such as when the autolap will sound, or change the heart rate zone limits but what I personally liked the most, change what you see on the watch face during a workout.

This was one of the big highlights of the M400 for me. In any Sport Profile, under Training Views, you can have up to 8 different screens to scroll through during a workout. These screens are completely customizable. You can add whatever you want to view. For example: For easy runs, I like to view my duration, distance, and average pace. When I’m doing speed work, I like to be able to see lap time, distance, and speed. On a third screen, just for reference, I have time of day and calories burned.

Select which items you want to see on up to 8 screen. Add lap time, pace, altitude or heart rate to name a few.

Select which items you want to see on up to 8 screen. Add lap time, pace, altitude or heart rate to name a few.


For racing, I added another Sport Profile and customized its view to show current and average pace on one screen, and duration and distance on the next. This is similar to what I’m used to with my Garmin. I think this is the best part about the M400. You can customize what you want to see or what you’re used to during a session but also get the fancy new tricks of a nice watch.

Editing Training Views

Editing Training Views

Once you've chosen what you want to see, this is what the watch looks like during a workout

Once you’ve chosen what you want to see, this is what the watch looks like during a workout

Interval Timers
Another feature I really like is the interval timers. In the past, there was always some mental math involved for adding rest periods to an intrerval, or marking a distance with a scuff in the dirt or a stick. The M400 makes running intervals a breeze. You can set two separate timers. For my workouts, I set one for distance and one for time. eg: Timer1 0.8km, Timer2 1:45. This takes all the distance guess work and watch checking out of the way so you can focus solely on your speed work. SUPER EASY.

Room for Improvement
There were only two things that I had small issues with regarding this watch.

The first was with the heart rate monitor that came with the demo unit I was given. In the past I’ve never been one to monitor my heart rate. Personally, it’s just another number and I don’t have any heart issues. I tried the chest strap and within the 1st kilometer it had popped off and slid down three times. Now, I probabaly could have tried more but for me, if it’s not going to stay on right away then it’s not happening. I think the strap may just be a little big. I’ve heard Polar has smaller straps available. Like I said though, I like to keep things pretty simple with just the basic numbers on speed, distance and time.

The second small issue was GPS signal. It seemed like the M400 took a little longer than usual to find satellites. It wasn’t always an issue but sometimes took up to five or six minutes. A long time to sit in the cold. I also noticed that occasionally the GPS signal would be lost momentarily. This never really happened with my Garmin so I was a little disappointed. I’d say over the 8 week period, it happened 3 or 4 times.

Overall Polar has put together a nice unit in the M400. The watch is stylish, user friendly, and adaptable to several different acivities. I like that it can be customized for what you want to see in a workout. I also think it’s connectivity to Flow through your laptop or mobile device is a really great feature. The use of two interval timers makes speed day mental math free. Once I’ve sent this demo unit back, I will most likely be purchasing one of these myself. No offense to my Garmin, but this watch is pretty great.

Do you have an M400? Do you like it? Any similar comparisons?

2014 Recap: What’s next?

Hello, friends. Now that I’ve had a bit of time to let my mind settle down I thought I’d do a little 2014 Year In Review. It’s been almost a month since the marathon and things are pretty much back to normal for me. My body has recovered well and I’m hitting reasonable mileage for what I’m calling the “Off Season”. I’ve had a chance to sit down with Coach Rick and discuss some options for 2015 and what we want to accomplish. So, what happened this year? What was different? What did I learn? Here we go…

The Numbers
I guess what a lot of people are interested in is numbers. Here are mine for this year. New Personal Bests are:

Debut 5k: 18:47 (Eaton’s Downtown Dash)
Debut 8k: 34:13 (Robbie Burns 8k)
10k: 37:59 (Toronto Yonge Street 10k)
Half Marathon: 1:26:31 (Harvest Half)
30k: 2:12:04 (Around The Bay)
Marathon: 3:03:12 (Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon)

There’s no way I can be disappointed with anything this year. Every distance I set out to do I was able to set a personal best and run with a good effort. With that in mind, there are still improvements to be made here and there. This gives me something to shoot for in 2015.

Racing in 2014

Racing in 2014

Right after the marathon I wanted to rest. I spent months working hard to get in the kind of shape to throw down a three hour marathon which incidentally was also the best physical shape I’ve ever been in! Right after the marathon I had a couple of treat meals over the next week. Pizza, chocolate cake, fish n’ chips, a big burger… all of the things that I’d normally avoid for the most part during a build. Call it a reverse detox. I think it’s important to treat ones self after achieving a big goal. It makes you appreciate the work put in a little more and helps you relax. You worked hard! Enjoy it. (Talking to myself)

This is the creativity of JP Bedard and Steve Layton, folks...

This is the creativity of JP Bedard and Steve Layton, folks…

As for running, I took a solid week off running completely post-marathon. I think I took about two or three days off physical activity completely which was a little strange but let my mind rest too. I came out of this race with no major injuries. (Bonus!) I went for a massage and chiro appointment the day after the race and that helped wonders. My RMT and Chiropractor had even offered to give me a free hour each if I qualified for Boston! That was extra nice of them. Thanks Ashley and Val at the GoodLife in St. Catherines! 🙂

Once my legs were feeling at least good enough to walk on, I did some light spinning, walking and hiking to substitute for running. It was a nice break from the relentless miles of the summer. After about a week I started easy running. No more than 5-7km for the first few days until I was sure my legs were working the way they were supposed to. Now my legs feel like they’re back to normal. Springy and energetic again, I’m running around 70km/week just as I feel with no structured workouts. I read an article by Pace & Mind Coach Rejean Chiasson about race recovery and found it very helpful. You can check it out here

So, what was different about 2014? It was my strongest performing year in running. How’d that happen?! I think I can credit that to being consistent. I remember reading a quote in a magazine from Rob Watson. I don’t have the exact quote but I remember he said that no one workout or trick will get you where you want to be. Your success is the culmination of a number of workouts, experiences and dedicated hours that you’ve put together over months if not years! I could really begin to notice after Around The Bay this year that I started feeling stronger with my runnning. Again, more experience and time on the legs helped attribute to this. As a flight instructor I used to tell students who were finding exercises challenging that no one is perfect right from the word go. This is the same for running. Everything in fact. You’ll get better; but you have to give it some time. In that time there needs to be patience, consistency, and the right attitude. Give your best effort and you’ll find that you are powerful beyond what you ever imagined. This is my new mantra moving forward for more than just running: Patience, Consistency, Power.

New mantra

New mantra

What’s next?
About a week and a half after the marathon, I met Coach Rick to talk about what’s next. Originally going forward I had thought about sticking to shorter distances for a while, focusing on the 5k and half-marathon more. After discussing this with Rick, he thought that I’d probably be able to still reach the goals I was looking for while still maintaining more mileage. I’ve been feeling a lot better than expected post-marathon so I think it’s safe to go for higher mileage again this spring. I orginally wnated to stick to shorter races thinking I’d be tired or sick of high mileage. To be honest, I miss it! I doubt I’ll be running a spring marathon but we’ve decided that Around The Bay would be a good race to key in on. I had a good time running ATB this past year and am super excited to be teaming up with my good buddy Mike Bentley again for it this year. Mike and I have talked a little about the race and possibly going for a sub 2 hour race. That may be a little ambitious at the moment but something to shoot for none the less. After that, Rick and I will likely plan for another fall marathon. That’s not set in stone but that’s what we’ve talked about. Toronto? Chicago? Berlin? I’m happy to take suggestions!

Right now this is what the winter race season looks like:
Boxing Day 10-Miler (Hamilton)
Robbie Burns 8k (Burlington)
Chilly Half-Marathon (Burlington)
Around The Bay (Hamilton)

I’ll start up on a training plan with Rick again at the beginning of December. Until then, I’m enjoying running fairly leisurely and working on strength training at the gym! I’m starting to get the itch to race again… I can’t help it.

How’s everyone else’s recovery from fall races going? Hope you’re feeling good. Drop me a line and let me know!

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Race Recap

Well, the marathon is done. On Sunday, October 19th, I ran my second marathon. I actually ran it! No stopping for injures. It was a full out, hard battled effort. This was my attempt to both qualify for the Boston Marathon and to run faster than 3 hours. It’s a little strange to be sitting here now and not having my mind focused on training. It’s nice in a way. I think my mind needs the break more than my body does. This marathon was a race I had been building up to basically since I crossed the finish line last year feeling defeated. I had some knee troubls early on which forced me to walk and hobble most of the last 12km in 2013. Needless to say, in 2014 I was back for more; fitter and stronger than ever.

I had been in Toronto for a couple of days before the race for some events. I was part of the marathon flame ceremony where Toronto’s run crews ran a flame up and down a block of Danforth in the pouring rain. I joined my Digital Champion friends and got to catch up with other runners from Tribe Fitness, Pace & Mind, Longboat Road Runners, and Black Lungs Toronto. I also went to the pre-race expo and was able to attend the elite press conference. That was amazing. I ended up sitting with all of the Canadian elite marathoners. I found myself between Rob Watson, Eric Gillis, Rejean Chiasson, Kelly Wiebe, Kate Van Buskirk, Lanni Marchant, Kim Doerksen, and Krista Duchene. I was feeling pretty noob-ish and super happy that I had an opportunity to speak one-on-one with a few of them… Way better than Twitter!! A big thank-you to Jenna for getting me in there.

Heather from Tribe Fitness passing the marathon flame to the Digital Champions. Photo by Amber Renton

Heather from Tribe Fitness passing the marathon flame to the Digital Champions. Photo by Amber Renton

At the elite press conference. That's Rob Watson in front of me!

At the elite press conference. That’s Rob Watson in front of me!

Here’s how race day went:

I woke up around 6am and did my normal bagel with peanut-butter and a banana breakfast. I felt good. No injuries, no sickness, confident and relaxed. I headed down to meet the Digital Champions for a group picture. The start line was right across the road from my hotel so getting there was a breeze. The Digital Champions (who are social media ambassadors to the race) have been really great for support over the summer. We are a group of runners of all different levels but all enjoy the same thing. Running, encouraging others…and tweeting about it. It’s been nice to see each person grow as a runner. Many were taking on their first marathon. We had a few chats, a quick picture and then I was off to do my warm-up.

Just a few of the Digital Champions before the race.

Just a few of the Digital Champions before the race.

After warming up I found my way into the red corral. I gave a few handshakes and hugs to some buddies in the coral. Nils, Kenny, Dana, Andrew, Ryan, Mark, Dave and Rick were ready to go. They’ve been with me throughout the year and we were all about to lay it down. The energy was insane. I felt like a caged animal in that corral. The game plan was to run a time of 2:58. Sub 3. That would be ideal. Goal A: Sub 3, Goal B: Qualify for Boston (sub 3:05) and Goal C: Set a personal best (faster than 3:36). As I found a spot, I met a lady named Kara. She was wanting to go for a sub 3 marathon. Kara and I were side by side from that point on. I had my buddy to keep me company. We were ready.
The race began and I settled in quickly. To go sub 3 I needed to keep my pace between 4:13-4:15 per kilometer. The first km split a 4:15. Good. We’re right where we need to be. Keep moving. Kara and I kept a nice conversation the whole first half of the race. I kept freaking her out I think. Every time I saw some friends I surged forward. I felt good though. I was taking in the marathon experience and STWM is for sure the place to cheer and enjoy the supporters. For the first half I had no real issues. I felt slight tightness around my hip from a past issue this summer but It faded by the half way point. As we passed 7km and 16km I picked up a stack of Honey Stingers from Robyn. She was positioned on the centre median for me at Strachan and Lakeshore. Without her there, I wouldn’t have had my fuel to keep going. I’m so thankful for help from her and my parents who had another stack at 21.1km.
Here’s what my splits looked like for the first half:
4:15, 4:13, 4:09, 4:12, 4:10, 4:08, 4:11, 4:15, 4:15, 4:17,4:12, 4:12, 4:11, 4:12, 4:14, 4:10, 4:17, 4:09, 4:12, 4:07, 4:01

At the half way point, I picked up fuel from my parents who were super hyped to see me. After that, all the weird marathon stuff started to happen. We turned into the part of the course I nicknamed “The Pretzel” which went under Eastern ave along side the Don Valley Parkway area for a couple of kilometers. As we entered this section I noticed Canadian Men’s elite Rob Watson standing on the other side of the road, taking his race bib off. “Wow. I guess everyone has bad days” I thought. I had a good chat with Rob the day before and he had wished me luck. He’s a really nice dude and I hope he’s alright now. We ran through the rest The Pretzel. I saw Kenny, Dana and Andrew as we turned around. “Run strong!” Andrew barked. That stuck with me the rest of the race. “You’re damn right I will, buddy”, I thought. As we came up the exit of this section, Kara and I made a new friend; Another Mike! Mike lives one town away from me. It was nice to have a local runner nearby. This was his third marathon. He joined our Super Team. (I just made that name up now. I like it.. 🙂 )

Mike, Kara and I through 25km

Mike, Kara and I through 25km

We came out of The Pretzel and east towards the Beach. Now, between 26-29km I went into a bit of a dark place. I’m not sure why. My right knee started to feel loose. No pain, but as if it could give way. At the same time, my legs started feeling really heavy. Weirdest of all, my hands felt 4 sizes too big. Like Hulk Hands.. I looked at them and they seemed a bit puffy. Maybe the blood had rushed into them a little. Needless to say, this was all gone by 30km when we started seeing crowds again. Kara all of a sudden had this super-hero like second wind and took off. It was just Mike and I now to battle it out. We were now Team Mike. Mike pulled ahead a little. Maybe 10 meters. I had a hold on him. I wasn’t letting him go. Both of our paces started to slip as we passed 33km. I started to feel tightness in my right hamstring. I knew that if I over extended too much it could pull and my day would be over. I went into survival mode. Sub 3 hours seemed a little out of reach now. If I kept it together I could still go sub 3:05 and get my BQ.

Here are the splits from 22-32km: 4:12, 4:11, 4:14, 4:11, 4:16, 4:16, 4:13, 4:16, 4:16, 4:19, 4:16

I reeled Mike back in. Beside him now he said he was hurting. I told him to hang tight. “It’s a walk in the park now!” We were almost there. I felt great! Mentally anyway. Physically my leg was being a whiny jerk but mentally I was all in it. We repeated Mike’s mantra. “Check your form, relax, this is fun”. That helped. Starting to pass other runners coming from the other direction also helped. Unable to call out anymore, I gave a head nod or a little point to friends I saw. Passing the 35km marker I realized that we were 2 minutes behind where we needed to be. Right on the cusp of a sub 3 hour time. Ah well. Keep it together and finish strong.

Splits 33-36km 4:29, 4:26, 4:21, 4:22

"Does it hurt?" "Yep" "Do we care?" "F*ck no!"

“Does it hurt?” “Yep” “Do we care?” “F*ck no!”

Hanging on now, pain was starting to really engulf both of us. “I don’t think this is a walk in the park anymore.” I said. Mike piped up, “Does it hurt?”, “Yep”, I said. “Do we care?” he challenged? “F*ck no” I responded with a surprising amount of gusto. That was our new mantra to get us through.
200 meters to go. Photos by Mike Bentley

200 meters to go. Photos by Mike Bentley

We finally turned up Bay Street and headed for the finish. I crossed the line with a time of 3:03:12. 174th overall and 7th in my age group. My last few splits from 37- 42.2km: 4:30, 4:39, 4:40, 4:44, 4:43, 4:47, 2:52. My watch measured 42.71km giving that last 0.2km a 4:03/km average pace. Mike turned and hugged me at the end. I think he may have picked me up briefly. I couldn’t even pick my feet up let alone another person. I found my parents, Robyn, and Shea post race. Lots of hugs and a shower followed.
I looked all over for this pic. Jenna and Inge at Canada Running Series were able to track it down. Thanks!

I looked all over for this pic. Jenna and Inge at Canada Running Series were able to track it down. Thanks!



Overall I feel like I executed a good race. I fueled well before and during. I didn’t hit the wall and I was in control the whole time. Obviously there are some things you can’t really control like wind, cold, and when your muscles want to seize up. Given the situation, I am happy and now I need to rest. I’ll be back for another marathon but I’m not sure when just yet. I’ll be taking the next few days to have a good rest and probably the next month off any serious training. Coach Rick and I will probably meet over the next two weeks to make a game plan for 2015. We’ve discussed backing off the marathon distance for next year to work on speed and give my body a bit of a break. I feel working on some shorter distances and speed could really benefit my marathon time. Around The Bay will probably be on the plan but that’s all I have thought of for now.

I have one more blog post that I’d like to share possibly later this week. It’ll be a little more in depth of what my thoughts are towards the marathon and what it is to be a runner.

Congrats to all who ran the race, had personal bests, qualified for Boston, ran your first marathon and raised money for charity. A huge thank-you to Alan Brookes, Jenna Pettinato and Canada Running Series for being huge parts of this race and putting it on flawlessly.

One last thought; Thank-you to the running community. It’s such a tight knit group but includes thousands of people. I can’t even begin to name everyone but let me at least name some run crews. If you’re a runner and not in a group or are looking to start running, I suggest joining one. These groups can be like your family and I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to be a part of several in some way and to call runners from all groups my friends.
Brant Death Racers
Grand River Endurance
BlackToe Running
Longboat Road Runners
Black Lungs Toronto
Tribe Fitness
Pace & Mind
Health & Performance
Parkdale Road Runners
San Diego Track Club
and last but not least STWM Digital Champions


Harvest Half Marathon Race Recap

We’re almost at the end of the build! The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is now five weeks away and I. Am. Exhausted. I’ve really tried hard this year to have quality runs and to do that, I’ve had to ensure quality recovery. Managing all the little aches and pains in addition to refueling properly has been quite the task at times but so far things have worked out with very few days missed for injury. I’m hoping I’m not jinxing anything here but so far so good.

The last race in the plan before STWM was the Harvest Half. This was a last minute pick for me after the Milton Half was cancelled. The race is put on by Run Waterloo and starts in the little town of St. Clements. The course was much more challenging than I had expected. Coach Rick had told me that there were some loose gravel sections. I though “It can’t be that bad. I train on gravel trails anyway.” Turns out that the course was about 4k paved road and 17k dirt/gravel country road. The country roads were quite hilly and zapped your energy if you weren’t careful. To top it off race morning was a complete wash out. It rained from the moment we arrived until after all the runners had finished (Figures!!). Having said that, I had my friend Kevin Farr with me for pacing. I’ve been enjoying long runs on the weekends with Kevin and other members of Grand River Elite Running Club. You can read more about them here: They’re a small but super fast group of runners. In trying to keep up with their paces, it has been pushing me a little in the long runs where I need it most.

The country roads were extra messy

The country roads were extra messy

Our plan was to go out in 4:00-4:04 kms which would bring us back somewhere between 1:25:00 and 1:26:30. Before the race I had been concerned with a bit of a nagging groin pull that’s been on and off the last couple of weeks. I told Kevin that I wouldn’t really know how it’d hold up until we got to race pace. Luckily, everything stayed together and Kevin and I were able to bring home a 1:26:31 finish which is a 17 second personal best time beating out the Ottawa Half earlier this year. I placed 11th overall and 1st in my age group. At first I thought I had placed 3rd but it turns out the two guys ahead of me placed 1st and 2nd overall in the race so that bumped me into first for the age group.
Final 100m. Kev ran bandit so pealed off early.

Final 100m. Kev ran bandit so pealed off early.Photo credit Run Waterloo.

Discussing the race over some pizza, fresh corn and other goodies later, Kevin and I thought if the hills hadn’t been a factor we probably could have been closer to a 1:25:00 finish. I was also trying to be careful during the race to not aggravate the groin. I only felt it once briefly in the last km when we started to push a little. Overall, Kevin helped me execute a perfect race. With a negative split, we picked off about 6 runners in the back half of the course. The half-marathon is still my favorite to race. I’ve got a good strategy on how to run them now and really enjoy picking a runner in the distance and trying to catch them in the back half of the race.

So, the next race will be my second full marathon. Now’s the time to stay focused and be extra careful, listen to the body and have good thoughts. I feel the taper crazies coming but first I have one more 38k long run to do next week.
Harvest medals
See you in October!